A Letter from Dean Shabnam Koirala-Azad

by School of Education

We, at the USF School of Education (SOE), started this academic year with both a renewed sense of hope and a deeper understanding of the breadth of challenges confronting humanity at this moment. In humble solidarity, we offer care and support to communities, near and far, enduring particularly challenging realities. The principle of collective care that has guided our work through the past year and a half has continued to be central to our work as we move into this year. With resolute hearts and minds, we take on the work of advancing justice through education, recognizing the urgency of our work in the education and mental health professions today.

Based on our collective learnings last year, the following concepts continue to help frame our collective work, even as we pursue our individual interests and aspirations. This edition of the newsletter offers some highlights of this important work.

  • Practice collective care. The genuine concern for all — a deceptively simple principle — can have a profound impact on our ability to transcend current divides. Our experience through the past year and a half provides ample evidence to the fact that the welfare of any segment is inextricably bound up with the welfare of the whole.
  • Grow our souls. Civil rights activist Grace Lee Boggs used this concept to highlight the most practical ways in which we can continue to build amidst oppressive forces. She said, "Each of us needs to be awakened to a personal and compassionate recognition of the inseparable interconnection between our minds, hearts and bodies; between our physical and psychical wellbeing; between ourselves and all other selves in our country and the world." In the SOE, we understand justice as the preservation of human dignity and spirit. In connection to one another, we strive to nurture that part of us that seeks meaning and aspires to transcend.
  • Build another world. Author Arundhati Roy's vision — “Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing” — shapes our radical imagination. The world which we envision, one built on a different set of values and principles, has never yet existed. Progress then, will have to involve a conscious orientation towards learning, inquiry, search, creativity, and innovation. Social justice, liberatory praxis, humanizing education, solidarity, and other evolving concepts offer us some frameworks within which we can continue to embark on a different project that allows us to lay the groundwork for a different system altogether.
  • Embrace an ever-advancing SOE. While taking pause to reflect on, and provide mutual support in, the struggles of the moment, we will continue to strive thoughtfully, passionately, and systematically in defense of the most vulnerable. We strive to replace ingrained cultures of contest with those of cooperation, exploration, and a willing acceptance of setbacks and missteps as inevitable in the process of learning. We will continue to set our eyes, minds, and hearts on promising steps forward in our quest for lasting change.

As we move forward, we extend special thanks to our students, faculty, staff, collaborators, community partners, supporters, and well-wishers who lift us up and cheer us on as we take strides together towards a common vision.

Thank you,

Shabnam Koirala-Azad
Dean, USF School of Education